Friday, 08 April 2011 00:00
What a difference a year makes.
If you think back to the budget crisis of a year ago and the discussions today, there truly is a marked difference. In both, the state was grappling with a devastating fiscal crisis, but this year the commitment was made to reduce spending as opposed to the cycle of ever more taxes and spending that was the norm in Albany from both sides of the aisle for far too long.
We all remember the over $14 billion in taxes, fees and surcharges that was imposed over the past two years alone on such things as payroll, electricity, natural gas, and bottled water.
The truth is that New York does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. The fiscal predicament the state finds itself in came as a result of years of overspending.
We had to tackle the $10 billion deficit we inherited in this year’s budget, but understood, as we all know, that it could not be by throwing a further burden on our taxpayers once again. Most importantly, it was a bipartisan effort with my Senate colleagues and I working with Governor Cuomo and members of the Assembly to craft this year’s budget.
Yes, there would be sacrifice and pain, but it would be shared and equitable. Our fiscal policy of cutting spending and reducing taxes puts us on the path to fiscal recovery.
In our efforts to cut spending, the New York State Senate also set its priorities. Among those priorities is education and job creation. After the Governor proposed his budget, the Senate restored, in its budget, over $280 million in aid to education.
The Senate’s plan restored the proposed cuts to 4201 schools for the disabled such as the Henry Viscardi School in Albertson and the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf and exempted all schools from having to pay the MTA payroll tax. We have also made a commitment to create jobs by supporting the Governor’s Power for Jobs program as well as creating tax incentives to businesses to hire new employees.
Notwithstanding our commitment and efforts, however, there are special interests, committed to the status quo, that would have us continue the State’s historic tax and spend cycle–taxing others to pay for their particular interests. Now is not the time to raise taxes on anyone. Many of our family and neighbors are out of work and struggling to remain in the communities they helped build.
We must redouble our efforts to impose and maintain fiscal discipline. It is the only way we will encourage the investment and relocation of businesses to our State that will create the private sector jobs we all need.
In order to change the fiscal condition of the state, we have to change the culture of Albany. But there are those special interests who have opposed this change. These are the very same groups for whom the system is working. We’ve all seen their efforts to promote their own agenda these past few weeks – the mailings, phone calls, and ads. Just a word of caution – take the rhetoric with a grain of salt and take the time to review who is sending you the information.
These past few weeks, various groups have accused myself and others of cutting funding for education and protecting millionaires. For the record, both allegations are lies (1) as I stated earlier, my colleagues and I were able to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to education that the Governor had initially cut and (2) we did not vote either for or against an extension of the “millionaires tax” (which applies to individuals earning over $200,000 and families earning over $300,000) that expires at the end of this year as the Governor did not include it in his budget at all.
I did not go to Albany to cater to the desires of special interest and lobbying groups who only have their own interests at heart. I went to Albany to protect the interests of my constituents, the people who choose to remain in our communities, work hard and raise their families, those who are trying remain here after giving so much to build the areas we have come to love.
The special interest groups can choose to attack in order to protect a system that has worked for them. We’re changing the culture even if there are those who would have us keep the system as it is for their benefit. I cannot and will not accept business as usual in Albany.
As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve.